Media group’s purchase terms not met: NCC

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Mar 13, 2014 - Page 3

The National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday that the Want Want China Times Group has yet to fulfill the conditions set by the commission when the group intended to purchase cable television systems owned by the China Network Systems (CNS) in 2012, adding that Want Want China Times still owns CtiTV

The three conditions include that Want Want China Times Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his associates must completely dissociate themselves from the management of the CtiTV news channel.

Meanwhile, China Television’s (CTV) digital news channel, which also belongs to the group, has to be changed into a non-news channel and CTV must have an independent content review board.

Each condition must be met before the acquisition is allowed to take effect, the commission said.

According to the commission, the three conditions were set because the deal would enable the group to decide the types of channels that should be included in the cable television services, which in turn affects the types of information received by the consumers.

To preserve the diversity of public opinion, the commission ruled that the group should not own or control TV new channels.

To fulfill the conditions, the group first tried last year to place 75 percent of the shares in CtiTV owned by the Tsai family in the trust of the Industrial Bank of Taiwan.

The commission then consulted with the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA, the agency responsible for enforcing the Trust Act, 信託法), which said that placing the property in a third-party trust did not change the controlling relations between the property and the property owner.

Based on the interpretation from the ministry, the commission then determined that the group did not fulfill the condition, as Tsai and his associates were specifically told that they must not directly or indirectly control or hold shares of CtiTV.

Andy Hsieh (謝煥乾), director of the commission’s communication management department, said that the group had again inquired in December last year if it had fulfilled the condition after placing the shares under the trust of five individuals.

The commission ruled yesterday that the condition remains unfulfilled, he said.

“Even through he had placed the property under the trust of five individuals rather than a financial institution, it does not change the fact that Tsai and his associates still own CtiTV,” Hsieh said, adding that the group’s application also stated that the group reserves the right to handle the property.

Many questioned why the group has been insisting on meeting the commission’s requirement by placing the property under a third-party trust following its first failed attempt two years ago.

Some also found the second attempt questionable since MBK Partners, the major shareholder in CNS, had filed for withdrawal of its applications to transfer the company’s shares to the Want Want Group.

Chao Yu-pei (趙育培), special assistant to the Want Want China Times Group chairman, said that the group would do everything it can to fulfill the requirements set by the commission.

He said that ministry had told the commission that it should rule on the deal on a case-by-case basis, adding that it was unfair that the commission kept using an interpretation of the Trust Act to reject the group’s request.